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When you tie the knot, family relationships change.

Your mom was probably your first teacher, encourager and biggest cheerleader. And chances are, she’s one of the first people you’ve gone to for advice since… well, as long as you can remember.

But now things are different, and while your mom is still there for you, your wife takes the top spot.

Think of it this way: You’ve added an all-star player to your team who wants to be there for you in every way possible, and she is at the top of your priority list.

Adapting to marriage and navigating the changing road with Mom will take skill and finesse, especially since you don’t want to hurt Mom’s feelings, but these tips can help.

  • Do your best to speak positively to your mom about your wife. If your mom starts to criticize her, honor your wife in the conversation. And let Mom know that although you value her opinion, you don’t want to hear her speak badly of your bride.
  • When you and your wife make decisions together, present your decisions as a united front. You should be the one to tell your mother about the choice you made. Don’t make it sound like it you only went along with it to avoid rocking the boat–that will only create problems.
  • Check with your wife before making plans with your mom. Never, EVER commit to something with your mother (like bringing her to live with you) without completely talking it over as a couple first.
  • Got problems in your marriage? DO NOT talk about them with Mom unless your bride says she’s ok with it. (Hint: Make sure she’s REALLY ok with it!)
  • Remember, you’re no longer single. Turning to your parents for emotional support is not a bad thing, but turning to them BEFORE you reach out to your wife is not the best idea for your marriage. Your wife is now your number one support system – make sure she knows that.

Image from Unsplash.com

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It’s coming and you know it’s coming, and you’re doing everything in your power NOT to think about it. But when your youngest child leaves and you’re alone with a deafeningly silent house, you’ll want to be ready for the transition.

Thousands of young people head off to college each year, leaving their parents with a lot of time on their hands. Although they understand their role has changed, they are not quite sure what that means. Everything is different. No more school sports. No need to buy so many groceries. The mess throughout the house? Gone. It’s officially an empty-nest.

Some parents are excited about this newfound freedom while others find this time rather depressing.

“Making this transition can be tough,” says Pam Johnson, licensed clinical social worker and mother of two adults who have flown the nest. “You have to stay focused on the idea that your child is becoming his own person and pursuing dreams, which was the goal all along. Instead of lamenting the fact they don’t need you anymore, think about what they do need and the opportunity you have before you. As parents, we often put off our own interests to focus our attention on the needs of our children. This is a new season filled with opportunities.”

Johnson recalls that when her daughter went off to college, she and her husband dealt with the transition differently. Her world was turned upside down, but her husband seemed to take everything in stride. When she asked him about it, he explained that their daughter was happy. And he felt confident they had given her a great foundation to stand on her own two feet.

Johnson offers these strategies for making the transition to the empty-nest:

  • Plan ahead. Don’t wait until your child leaves to think about how you will deal with your extra time. Plan some projects to occupy your time. Be intentional about scheduling weekend activities you can do as a couple.
  • Set limits for yourself. As your child settles into a new routine, there will be lots of demands on their time. Let your child make the first phone call and try to limit yourself to checking in once a week. E-mailing or texting are great ways to check in and be supportive without being intrusive.
  • Be there when your child needs you. The first few months may be hard for your child. Encourage perseverance. Send care packages and cards. Make your home a refuge to which they will want to return.
  • Consider the next thing. You have been given the gift of being a parent for a season of life. As that role changes into the empty-nest, you will want to consider what’s next. Keep your eyes and heart open to where you need to go in life and what you want your life to be about.

“Letting go is hard,” Johnson says. “You want to let go of them gracefully.

“Here’s a little secret. When they come home, you will be happy to see them come home AND you will be happy to see them go because you will have transitioned into new routines and rituals that aren’t all about them.”

Image from Unsplash.com

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

You walk through the door after dropping your baby off at college. The silence is deafening. Who knew that one more person could add so much noise to the house?

Trying to hold back the tears, you wonder what they’re up to. Will they miss you? How long will it take them to call? Will they pay attention to a thing you taught them?

Even if the past few months have been challenging, there is something about an empty nest that jolts you into a new reality. Life will never be the same. Ready or not, the next season of life has arrived.

Experts say that couples who find themselves “alone again” often find it hard to adjust. For years—schedules, meals, activities, everything—revolved around the kids. This moment in time can feel like an identity crisis, but you never really stop being a parent. You just parent in a different way when they head off to college. Instead of directing, you now move into a supporting role.

Right now, you may feel like you will never be the parents on television who sadly said goodbye to their college-bound child and then joyfully headed to Disney World.

Take a deep breath and try some of these suggestions as a practical guide for empty-nesters.

They may guide you to make the transition a bit easier:

  • Acknowledge the change. This time offers you a great opportunity to redefine yourselves and your marriage.
  • Get some rest. Since you aren’t coordinating meals, after-school activities and other things, you can actually go to bed at 8PM if you want. Allow yourself to slow down, settle in and rejuvenate!
  • Allow yourself to grieve. It’s common to feel a sense of loss or regret during this time. And, FYI: The empty nest hits men just as hard as women.
  • Resist the temptation to fill up your schedule. While you may feel a huge void in your life, instead of filling up the time and space with new commitments, enjoy your newfound freedom.
  • Ask for help if you need it. If your empty nest marriage is showing signs of withdrawal, alienation or negativity, seek professional counseling. It can help you process all that is going on.
  • Keep your sense of humor. It will definitely help you get through the tough times.
  • Stay connected. Care packages, real cards in the mail, emails and the occasional phone call are great ways to stay connected to your teen without coming across as overbearing, miserable or desperate.
  • Enjoy the silence. Remember the times you would have killed for just five minutes of complete quiet? Instead of fearing the silence, embrace it.
  • Reconnect with your spouse. You can now plan romantic dates, schedule gatherings with friends, take up something new like skydiving; AND, you can even walk around the house naked if you want!
  • Finally, CELEBRATE!

Parenting takes a tremendous amount of time and energy, but you’re an empty-nester now! Launching your child into the next phase of life is quite an accomplishment. It’s important to acknowledge where you have come from and where you want your relationship to go in the future. This is your time…enjoy!

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Many families will experience a new normal when college students arrive home for their first extended college break for the holidays. The thought of sleeping in their own beds, eating good food and resting for about a month sounds amazing. But parents and college students alike will wonder about a few things For example:

  • Should I spend time with family or catch up with old friends?
  • What rules do we play by now?
  • And, are curfew and other details really necessary?

While parents and students both look forward to this time, “It’s complicated” could definitely describe how things will go without conversations ahead of time. If you want to lay the foundation for a great visit, don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. Here are some helpful suggestions for both parents and students during the holiday college break.

Tips for Parents:

  • Re-think the rules. It is hard to be treated like an adult at school and like a kid at home.
  • Be interested in their new friends and their happenings at school.
  • Remember that it is an adjustment for everybody, not just you.
  • Recognize that college students feel a lot of pressure when they come home. They want to spend time with their family and their friends.
  • Be creative. Instead of complaining about the time they spend visiting friends, throw a party and invite everybody to your house. That way you can catch up on the latest, too!
  • Anticipate that your student will need some rest. They have just completed exams. Try to be understanding if they are a little grouchy the first couple of days.
  • Warn younger siblings that things will probably be different and be aware of their feelings, as they too are dealing with change.

For Students:

  • Even though you have had your freedom, be respectful to your parents. If they ask you where you are going and when you will be back, tell them because it is the right thing to do. If you want to be treated like an adult, act like one.
  • Ask your parents if they are open to rethinking some of the house rules. If they are, offer constructive suggestions and don’t push the edge of the envelope.
  • Remember, your parents have been away from you. Be open to spending time with them. Answer their questions about school and your new friends.
  • Make the most of your visit with your parents. Don’t take them for granted. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
  • Many parents will still have to get up early and go to work. Consider how your actions could impact their ability to get good rest and do their job.
  • Try to balance your time at home and with your friends. (Sleeping in your own bed doesn’t count as time spent with your family).

Be encouraged. Although it can happen, heading home from college during the holidays doesn’t have to cause tension. A few conversations, along with some compromise on both sides, could set the stage for some great memories this holiday season.

Early in their marriage Susan and Scott* wanted to please both of their families when it came to how they spent time together over the holidays. Her mom wanted them to celebrate Thanksgiving with her. His mom celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, so her mom requested Christmas Day at her house. 

Despite some angst over changing things up with family holiday traditions, it worked fairly well… until their first child came along. Then they realized traveling late on Christmas Eve might not be the best thing for their family. Once again, they wondered how to deal with tradition. 

After negotiating, Susan and Scott decided to stay home for Christmas. Anybody who wanted to join the celebration was welcome. While not without its challenges, this adjustment to tradition held for a number of years—even as siblings married and added more in-laws into the mix. 

Now Scott and Susan’s children are adults with jobs and lives of their own. Once again, Susan and Scott find themselves in a situation where what has worked in the past for holiday celebrations doesn’t seem to fit their current needs. While their parents still want time with them, Susan and Scott also want to celebrate with their own children. Except now, their grown kids only have the actual holiday off. 

How can they be considerate of everyone as they plan to spend time with the ones they love?

Changing family holiday traditions can be complicated, and trying to please everyone can create a stressful holiday season for sure. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clear understanding of how families can easily transition from one phase to the next?

Since that’s not the case, here are some suggestions for navigating change and experiencing a special holiday season, no matter what stage of life you are in:

  • Instead of pressuring your grown children to keep things the way they have always been, give them the flexibility they need. 
  • Communication is key. Many misunderstandings surrounding the holidays happen because family members base their decisions on assumptions. Instead of being silent, request a family conference call or send out an email telling family members that you can adapt or adjust if necessary.
  • Take responsibility for your own emotions. Change is often difficult. The older you get, the more you realize you have limited time on earth. Although you want to spend more time with family members, they often have busy lives of their own. Acknowledging these feelings is important, and connecting with friends in a similar situation can help.
  • If you are the younger generation, recognize that holiday celebrations/traditions tend to be filled with emotion for everyone. While you’re trying to juggle everything, be patient with your extended family. 
  • Even if being there on the actual holiday isn’t possible, make it a point to celebrate at a different time.

It can be easy to get all worked up about what everyone expects from you during the holidays. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that family members are probably not intentionally seeking to complicate your life. Spend time talking with your spouse and/or family to brainstorm possibilities. Then build a plan that works best, knowing that everybody may not be 100 percent pleased with the end result.

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Do you remember your young adult years? You know, the times when you ate Ramen noodles and searched for spare change beneath the couch cushions and between the car seats because you were a starving student or just starting a new job.

There is nothing like knowing you are just barely making it – but still surviving – on your own. Looking back, you may realize those hard years helped you appreciate what you now have.

The landscape looks vastly different than it did twenty years ago.

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center report, more 18- to 34-year-olds are living with their parents. Researchers speculate this is fueled in large part by the number of people choosing to put off marriage.

If you think back to your teenage years, most teens couldn’t wait to be out on their own. Even if they didn’t have a job, they were determined to prove they could make it independently. So why are so many young adults choosing to live at home these days?

In The Many Reasons More Young Adults Are Living with their Parents, Naomi Schaefer Riley, a weekly columnist for the New York Post whose writing leans toward higher education, religion, philanthropy and culture, raises this question: Are parents doing enough to equip their children to leave the nest?

She surmises that young Americans may be living in their parent’s basement in part because they don’t have the economic or social tools to set out on their own. In a desire to protect and love their children and to shield them from experiencing potential problems in the world, parents may be unintentionally creating more obstacles for them.

This raises some important questions for parents to consider as they prepare their children to leave the nest.

  • Are you teaching your teens how to develop networks or do you encourage them to rely solely on your networks? Guiding them through the process of building their own network is a powerful step toward independence.

  • Do you allow your child to fail and learn from their mistakes?  Or, do you take care of the consequences so they don’t have to experience the pain? Figuring out how to move forward in spite of failure builds confidence.

  • Does your teen understand the definition of and the value of a good work ethic?  Employers constantly lament many young people’s understanding of punctuality or being respectful and motivated to do a good job.

  • Have you encouraged your teen to find a job without doing it for them?  It’s important to teach your teen how to look someone in the eye and put their cellphone away. Help them learn how to dress appropriately and what questions an interviewer may ask. These things are far more helpful for your teen in the long run than if you pick up the phone and make a call for them.

Except for special circumstances such as disability, emergencies or providing care to parents, is allowing adult children to live at home really the best thing for them? Part of launching into adulthood is learning how to navigate challenges and celebrate accomplishments. As hard as it may be, encourage them to learn the meaning of perseverance, relentless pursuit and independence.

For more insight on parenting, download our E-book “4 ways to stay connected after Baby” Download Here

When the kids leave the nest and are almost off the payroll, that second half of marriage is within sight. You finally have time to breathe. But suddenly you have questions…

  • What in the heck will we do with the second half of our marriage?
  • How will we handle the challenges of aging parents, crises with the children or unexpected medical issues?
  • What about retirement, finances and the like?

While some couples look forward to the years ahead, others feel trapped. They’re unhappy in a marriage that is less than fulfilling, and they wonder if this is all there is. For them, the idea of the second half is quite scary.

So… what does a thriving marriage look like in the later years? 

Gary Chapman and Harold Myra interviewed “second half” couples for their book, Married and Still Loving It: The Joys and Challenges of the Second Half. They found few couples who had escaped the unexpected challenges of life. However, some traits appeared to be significant between marriages that flourish in the second half and those that don’t. Laughter and acceptance, resilience and faith seemed to make the difference.

Whether the second half is just around the corner or you find yourself dreaming about it, you can prepare for it now. Chapman and Myra quote Swiss psychiatrist Paul Tournier’s book, The Adventure of Living:

“To make a success of one’s marriage, one must treat it as an adventure, with all the riches and difficulties that are involved in an adventure shared with another person.”

Even if your marriage is stuck in a rut, you can intentionally turn it into an adventure.

After years of marriage, it’s easy to focus on the differences between you and your spouse. But these differences aren’t necessarily a bad thing. The key is to figure out how to make your differences an asset instead of a liability.

Chapman writes, “While differences can be deadly, they can also be delightful.” Thriving couples learned to accept their spouse and were even able to laugh about their differences. This goes a long way in finding fulfillment in your marriage.

What about the kids?

While many couples have terrific relationships with their adult children, others encounter one crisis after another. Chapman and Myra encourage these parents to maintain a balance between self-preservation and self-sacrifice. Many marriages suffer when they become so focused on helping the children that they lose themselves. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help to overcome these challenges together.

Despite encountering unexpected job loss, illness, family crises and difficulty adjusting to retirement, thriving second half couples kept putting one foot in front of the other. Their commitment to marriage enabled them to stand together through life’s ups and downs.

And finally, these thriving couples said their faith was central to it all. That includes working through personality differences and all of the other challenges they have faced.

Although you might be anxious about what the future holds in the second half of marriage, Chapman and Myra encourage couples to embrace the challenge and to enter this season with great anticipation.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 6, 2016.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The song says it’s the most wonderful time of the year. And, in a lot of ways, it is wonderful. Something about the season seems to bring out the best in many folks. However, too much of a good thing can lead to serious meltdowns for children and parents alike.

As you prepare to enjoy a wonderful season with your family, here are a few things to consider ahead of time.

  • When it comes to your expectations of your children, keep them realistic. During the holidays, everything they are used to in the way of bedtime, the food they eat, who they spend time with and more gets thrown to the wind. While it is tons of fun, children can only take so much before they move into overload – and we all know that never ends well. Everyone will be happier if you can keep some semblance of routine and structure.
  • Talk with your children about your plans for each day. Just like adults, it’s helpful if kids know what to expect. Keep it simple. Share the highlights.
  • Keep your cool. When your child has a meltdown, it can be a challenge for you to not have one, too. Yelling and getting angry will only make matters worse, so stop and take a deep breath. Then, if possible, take your child to a quiet place where they can regain control.
  • If you can, try to spread out the celebrations instead of doing everything in a 48-hour period. While it’s hard to say no to the grandparents, putting boundaries in place can make the celebrations more enjoyable for everyone, even if you celebrate on a different day. A note to grandparents: Your adult children often find it difficult to tell you no without feeling guilty. Asking your grown children what works best for them could really help them as they plan to celebrate.

For those in the midst of co-parenting:

  • Talk about the fact that transitions are difficult. Sometimes just saying, “I don’t have a choice and you don’t have a choice; now how are we going to make the best of this situation?” can make things better for your child.
  • Make a plan. Discuss how to make the transition easier. Then use your time together to make it a special celebration.
  • Be prepared. Help them understand the possibility of a last-minute change in plans. Ask them what they would like to do instead and acknowledge the pain they may feel.
  • Stay in the parent role. While it might be tempting to be your child’s buddy, that is not what they need from you. It is very difficult to go back to being the parent once you have crossed that line. Before you make or change plans, think about how it will affect your child.
  • Children will follow your lead. If you have a bad attitude about the holidays, your children will probably follow suit. Set a positive mood for a holiday to remember.

Planning for bumps in the road beforehand can reduce holiday stress in your family and increase the chances for a joyful holiday. Wherever you find yourself, choose now to make the best of the days ahead.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 27, 2016.

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!